Commenting on Lord Heseltine’s independent review of UK competitiveness, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“Lord Heseltine’s analysis of the state of the UK economy is compelling. Businesses will welcome his call for steady, long-term thinking to improve the UK’s economic performance. Yet Heseltine’s prescription for action focuses too much on institutions, rather than on the fundamental barriers to business growth.
“Ministers should think carefully before committing to a restructuring of government, and focus first on the key constraints facing the real economy: the availability of growth finance, practical help for our exporters, our creaking physical infrastructure, and an education and training system that responds to business needs. Government can best support enterprise by collaborating with business to get the basics right.”
On Lord Heseltine’s recommendation that Chambers of Commerce play an expanded role in business support and local growth:
“We welcome the fact that Lord Heseltine has recognised that Chambers of Commerce are local, resilient, independent, internationally-focused and pro-active in their communities. We are pleased that he believes Chambers can continue to play a central part in making local growth happen.
“Lord Heseltine makes a range of recommendations that, in his view, would help bolster Chambers’ ability to serve local business. We will be studying these recommendations carefully and discussing their implications with Chamber members, the government, and other business organisations in the weeks and months ahead.”
On business access to finance:
“As long-standing campaigners for a British Business Bank, it is helpful that Lord Heseltine’s report acknowledges the fact that there is a structural problem around long-term, patient loan finance in Britain and that the Business Bank offers a possible solution. This is a much more fundamental issue for UK competitiveness and growth than the structure of government.”
“Lord Heseltine argues that Britain’s competitors have a more systematic, joined-up approach to exporting and international trade, involving both government and business organisations. “This is a critical issue for our global competitiveness, and we are working actively with Lord Green on ways to better use Chambers of Commerce at home and across the world to provide British exporters with the best possible support to break into new markets.”
On skills and training:
“Lord Heseltine is right to highlight the fact that the education and training system doesn’t currently deliver to employers’ needs. Chambers of Commerce stand ready to link employers to local schools and other training providers to ensure that British businesses can compete globally.”
On decentralisation away from Westminster and Whitehall:
“Local businesspeople across England tell me they would like more influence over local growth and economic development. Many companies in the real economy will agree with Lord Heseltine’s view that England is over-centralised, and that power, money and real decision-making need to be rebalanced away from Westminster and Whitehall.”